Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

What Did the Founding Fathers Fear?

A President Falsely Charging ‘Treason.’

The Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

Article III; Section 3: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

Trump: “I think what the Democrats are doing with the Border is TREASONOUS. Their Open Border mindset is putting our Country at risk. Will not let this happen!”

Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic: “’As having an ‘open border mindset’ is not levying war against America nor giving aid and comfort to its enemies, Trump is guilty of levying a false accusation of unsurpassed gravity and additionally guilty of violating his oath to protect and defend Article III, which defines treason as ‘only’ those offenses.’”

I find it difficult to take Trump seriously although I should take him seriously, we all should do so, and we all should work our hardest to make him a private citizen again with the potential of him going to prison afterwards. If two women doing bribes to get their kids into name-brand schools can be charged, then why not Trump for his past frauds? Trump the master dealer maker of fraud and lies. It is not over.

Having Ms. Pelosi as the Speaker of the House was fortuitous for this nation. She knows how to deal with those who have the mindset of a child. Please note the mini-clap of hers after Trump gave his SOTU address to Congress.

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There He Goes Again

On my personal blog, I mentioned that Tom Nichols is absolutely unwilling to discuss the run up to the US/UK?Australian invasion of Iraq. He is careless about facts and expresses contempt for even considering the official conclusions drawn by Hans Blix. He will not face evidence and has total contempt for expertise.

He asked me to stop replying to him and I did, but I have proof that he is wrong.

The man can’t handle facts and he refuses to listen to actual experts on the topics on which he makes assertions based on prejudice, stubborness and tribal loyalty.

Now I am here to mentoin that he’s done it again.

He has a little twitter exchange with Mike Gravel in which he demonstrates, again, his contempt for data and experts.

Nice come back. At a level with “There you go again”*. But stupid. First the rate of opioid overdose deaths is vastly higher now than in 1980. The drug problem of the 1960s was minor compared to the current crisis. By 1980 the heroin epidemic had passed. It’s true that there was a crack epidemic during the Reagan administration. But the big drug in 1980 was marijuana which is no longer a problem, because our generation (the pot heads of the 70s) are making the laws and know it was never a big problem.

But Nichols really demonstrates his contempt for data and expertise by asserting that “poverty” and “1980” go together. There is a technical literature on poverty. The first statistic is the official poverty rate. That rate was low in 1980 and shot up as soon as Reagan was elected (I am not asserting causation — it had more to do with Volcker). Nichols has a vague sense that the country was in bad shape in 1980 then Reagan saved it. He can’t be bothered to look up the relevant official statistics before tweeting. He places his prejudice and conservative tribal loyalty above the calculations of subject matter experts, because he has no respect for expertise.

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No, the Meuller report ***DID NOT*** “find no collusion!”

No, the Meuller report ***DID NOT*** “find no collusion!”

This past week I nearly became apoplectic about he malfeasance of much of the press and the punditry reporting of Barr’s 6 paragraph substantive “summary” (3 paragraphs each as to “collusion” and “obstruction of justice”) of Mueller’s roughly 300 page report.

As an initial matter, because Mueller’s grand jury is continuing to meet, and there are still subpoenas and witnesses outstanding, it is incorrect to say that “the investigation” has concluded. clearly “the investigation” is ongoing. What *has* concluded is Mueller’s involvement as special counsel, now that an Attorney General has taken over who did not have to recuse himself. Keep that basic point in mind.

But that’s not what got me livid. Much has already been covered by others. But it is one important, even fundamental, aspect of Barr’s executive summary on which I wanted to focus.

Start with the fact that Barr is a very good attorney. He is going to choose his words, and what he cites and what he omits with great care. Now, this is the *totality* of the language from the actual Mueller report that Barr quotes as to collusion:

“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Barr repeats this formulation virtually verbatim twice more in his letter. Here’s the second time:

Stop right there. Let me just slightly reword Barr’s money quote:

“[T]he investigation established that members of the Trump Campaigndid not conspire or coordinate with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

All I did was change the phraseology (in italics) slightly. But the meaning is much more definite and sharper. In my formulation above:

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Nazi executioner judge: “Political correctness is worse than Nazi tyranny.”

The terrorist mass murder in Christchurch, New Zealand two weeks ago has sent me back to my archives to retrieve my documentation of Anders Breivik’s extensive plagiarism of the writings of William S. Lind, et al.

Did I say “extensive” plagiarism? Breivik copied and pasted the whole 19,000 word pamphlet, making minor revisions here and there and deleting around 4,000 words that dealt with more arcane academic topics, such as Derridean deconstruction. Below is an example of the markup comparison of documents from Lind’s to Breivik’s, with insertions in blue and deletions in red:

At the end of Lind’s tract, he included a bibliographical essay “…as a guide for interested citizsens who want to learn more about the ideology that is taking over Western Europe and America.” One of the entries in that bibliography was The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories and Political Significance by Rolf Wiggershaus. Lind quoted a passage from the book’s “Afterword”

Since the publication in 1970 of his book The Poverty of Critical Theory, Rohrmoser has promulgated, in constantly varying forms, the view that Marcuse, Adorno and Horkheimer were the terrorists’ intellectual foster-parents, who were using cultural revolution to destroy the traditions of the Christian West. Academics such as Ernst Topitsch and Kurt Sontheimer, who saw themselves as educators and liberal democrats, followed in Rohrmoser’s footsteps. In 1972 Topitsch, a critical rationalist who was Professor of Philosophy in Graz, had stated that behind the slogans of ‘rational discussion’ and ‘dialogue free of domination’ there was being established at the universities ‘a distinct terrorism of political convictions such as has never existed before, even under Nazi tyranny’

What struck me as odd about the above passage was that “Rohrmoser” had no first name. At first, I suspected the passage was simply cut and pasted in without acknowledging that it was a quoted text. But the absence of quotation marks may have been simply an artifact of indent formatting lost during conversion to a web document. I was curious to find out Rohrmoser’s first name, which appeared in the sentence before the passage quoted by Lind:

Günther Rohrmoser was a social philosopher employed by [Hans] Filbinger, who, as a judge at a naval court martial during the last days of the Second World War, had pronounced a scandalous death sentence which he defended during the 1970s by saying that what was the law then could not be injustice today.

Hans Karl Filbinger was Minister President of Baden-Württemberg from 1966 to 1978. In October of 1977, in response to the kidnapping and murder of Hanns Martin Schleyer by the Red Army Faction, Filbinger gave a speech in which he blamed the teachings of the Frankfurt School for the terrorism. Such accusations, elaborated by academics such as Rohrmoser, Topitsch, Sontheimer and others became the basis for efforts to suppress student activism and the teaching of Critical Theory.

In 1978, Filbinger was accused of having presided — either as prosecutor or judge — over the executions of several sailors at the conclusion of the Second World War. The Wikipedia article outlines extenuating circumstances in his favor: several of the death sentences were in absentia and never carried out, others were commuted to prison sentences and in the one case that resulted in an execution he appears, according to the Wikipedia article,  to have been “filling in” for a prosecutor who had already asked for the death sentence. In In Pursuit of German Memory: History, Television, and Politics After Auschwitz, Wulf Kansteiner offered the following account of the outcome of the scandal:

With proper symbolic guilt management, none of these facts would have ended Filbinger’s career, but he committed two major public relations mistakes that made his resignation inevitable. First, Filbinger failed to reveal the full record of his service as a military jurist; the press found a total of four death sentences that listed Filbinger as an officer of the court and that he professed to have forgotten. Second, although Filbinger explained and defended his actions at length, he never apologized to his colleagues, his voters, or the relatives of the soldiers he had condemned to death. He failed to realize that legal innocence no longer amounted to historical innocence. Just because he had not committed any crimes in the eyes of the law did not mean that he could survive in the court of public opinion.

So it wasn’t the crimes Hans Filbinger committed — or didn’t commit — but the cover-up that disgraced him. Lind’s omission of the context for Wiggershaus’s discussion of Rohrmoser’s attacks on Critical Theory as the “foster parents of terrorism” deprives his readers of two crucial perspectives. The more sensational but ultimately trivial insight was the status of one of the accusers of the Frankfurt School as an actual Nazi who presided over at least one execution and subsequently tried to conceal his past.

But the more important aspect was the precedent in West Germany of the 1970s of a political campaign against Critical Theory orchestrated by high government officials. In addition to Filbinger, Franz Josef Strauss, leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, and Alfred Dregger chairman of the Christian Democratic Union in the state of Hesse “promptly labeled the Frankfurt School a cause of terrorism.”

Jürgen Habermas gave a contemporaneous account of this assault on the Frankfurt School in an article that first appeared in Der Spiegel in October 1977 and was subsequently translated and published in the New German Critique. It is worthwhile to quote at some length from that article because illuminates an historical parallel that few Americans would be at all aware of:

As an undergraduate I was struck by the fact that such influential figures of the post-war generation, eminent men like Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, had made politically astonishing statements and had advocated unfortunate doctrines. The first, as chancellor of the University of Freiburg, had welcomed the Nazis’ seizure of power and exalted its significance metaphysically, while second had theoretically vindicated that state which Hitler created. After the war, neither of them considered an unequivocal political explanation or a public revision of their actions to be necessary.

These shocking examples – and they are, after all, just examples – sharpened my, sharpened our awareness of the consequences of the theoretical matters which we teach and write. They are not simply arguments which are absorbed by the scholarly process and then survive or dissolve within it. On the contrary, as published and spoken words, they have an effect on readers and listeners at the moment of their reception which the author cannot revoke or withdraw as if he or she were dealing with logical propositions. Now of course it would be absurd to subscribe to the author the unintended consequences of an author’s statements without considering the circumstances which surround them. It is, however, equally absurd to pretend that the ideological history of a work’s consequences are entirely extrinsic. There is only one pragmatic escape from this dilemma, and unfortunately it is not easily put into practice. An author’s awareness of this dilemma must sufficiently limit his teaching and writing: an individual should not succumb to the atmosphere of objective irresponsibility, nor should an individual expand moral accountability to such an extent that he or she is paralyzed by the fear of uncertain and unexplored areas. Then only silence would remain.

It is obvious that Strauss and Dregger want to intimidate us so that we shall seek refuge in this last alternative. Both obscure the fact that in the 1960s it was the left-wing professors who were especially and distinctly conscious of intellectual causalities. Instead Strauss and Dregger construct a scenario of objective responsibility in a manner which until now has only met with approval in the dominions of Stalinist bureaucrats.

Does William Lind take responsibility for the (presumably) unintended consequences of what he has written, given the dilemma framed above by Habermas? Lind does a weekly YouTube broadcast called traditionalRIGHT in which he gives his opinions on items in the news. On March 17, he discussed the mass murders in Christchurch. On March 24, he addressed an executive order signed by Donald Trump that would cut off federal funding from universities that inhibited the “free speech” of conservatives. I have listened to these segments several times and downloaded transcripts that I have read closely. I will present my summary and interpretation of them in a subsequent post.

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Looking for Mister Good Barr

Looking for Mister Good Barr

I confess. I posted The Barr Letter and Useful Idiots of the Jaded Left to troll for tin-foil hats. I am agnostic on the Mueller investigation. I have never viewed Mueller, Comey or Rachel Maddow as the savior of truth, justice and the American Way. My objection to Taibbi, Greenwald et al.’s gloating is primarily against their premature ejaculation — although their glee is also reprehensible under the circumstances.

But here is the thing about tin-foil hat thinking: if you are going to engage in it, do it right. Let’s say there is this vast establishment, deep state conspiracy to overthrow the popular will electoral college result of the 2016 election. Hey, I can get down with that! What makes the Glenns and the Matts and the Halaszes and likbezes so confident that William Barr isn’t part of that conspiracy? Absolutely nothing. They simply haven’t thought through their heist.

Here’s how I would NAIL Donald Trump if I was William Barr: I would write a four-page letter that appears to exonerate him from conspiracy or coordination and in which I explicitly decline to indict on obstruction of justice charges. See what I did there? No?

I sidestepped the “can’t indict a sitting President” rule. That sets a precedent. Now we let that settle in for a while. Nobody objects — least of all the President of the United States who thinks he has just been cleared. Next comes the indictment from SDNY. But wait a minute! You can’t indict a sitting President! Oh yeah? The Attorney General just waived that rule.

Is my little scenario true? I doubt it. But it is no less plausible than the half-baked conspiracy scenarios heralded by the half-cocked tin-foil hat crew. Of course the paranoid style is not noted for  consistency or for thinking things through.

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The Barr Letter and Useful Idiots of the Jaded Left

The Barr Letter and Useful Idiots of the Jaded Left

As everyone knows by now, President Trump has been totally “exonerated” for everything, ever, by a four-page letter from William Barr, the Attorney General whom he appointed expressly to “exonerate” him. With regard to potential obstruction-of-justice, on page three of his letter, Barr cited Special Counsel Mueller’s statement that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Understandably, Trump’s allies and surrogates are ecstatic that Trump has been so unequivocally and unconditionally exonerated by a letter about a report that “does not exonerate him.” But the gloating does not stop there. A contingent of “left” journalists and self-styled pundits are jumping in the self-congratulatory bandwagon.

The “leftist” critique of the Russia collusion story follows a certain “dialectical” logic: first, the lesser of two evils is the greater danger and therefore my foe and second, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Alleged journalist Glenn Greenwald presents an inarticulate version of this critique when he sputters hyperbole on Democracy Now. Greenwald magically transforms not establishing an actionable criminal case into not a shred of evidence.

 

 

Matt Taibbi gives a more nuanced performance in comparing Russiagate to the Bush administration’s lies about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Taibbi qualifies his hyperbole by noting the hundreds of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars wasted as a result of the latter. “Unless Russiagate leads to a nuclear conflict, we’re unlikely to ever see that level of consequence.” But in terms of journalism?

As a purely journalistic failure, however, WMD was a pimple compared to Russiagate. The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess. Worse, it’s led to most journalists accepting a radical change in mission. We’ve become sides-choosers, obliterating the concept of the press as an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.

What a load of bollocks. Are we now supposed to believe that up until the time of the Steele dossier, the corporate news media was “an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction”? Fox? Breitbart? Daily Caller? Not to mention non-stop CNN and NYT coverage of Trump rallies, diners in rural Pennsylvania, personable neo-Nazis, Clinton emails and climate change

In his comprehensive critique of journalistic failure, Taibbi mentioned Fox once and the Daily Caller twice — to note their coverage of Michael Cohen’s denial of having ever been in Prague. Throughout the whole affair, the vast right-wing propaganda Wurlitzer was presumably acting as “an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.” Thank you, Matt Taibbi for your bold refusal to choose sides!

Not that it matters, but the mainstream media framing of the Russia collusion story was orchestrated by the “victim” of the “witch hunt.” The Mueller investigation was initiated by the Trump-appointed Deputy Attorney General who wrote the memo to give Trump cover for firing James Comey. The soi-disant “left” critics of Russiagate have bought that framing and are now gloating that “their side” has won.

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Maybe No Conspiracy Or Coordination, But Lots And Lots Of Collusion

Maybe No Conspiracy Or Coordination, But Lots And Lots Of Collusion

Trump and his supporters have been loudly claiming that the Barr letter about the Mueller report has shown “no collusion!” which has been shouted loudly from the rooftops, with many supposedly respectable sources such as the New York Times agreeing with this assessment, thus supporting the long running Trump/Hannity repeated claim.

But I note that the big headline on this morning’s Washington Post was “Mueller Finds No Conspiracy,” not “No Collusion.” Indeed, a careful reading of the clearly carefully written Barr letter finds it not using the word “collusion” at all. Its crucial getting Trump off a major hook says that the available evidence suggests that there was “no conspiracy and no coordination.” Nothing about collusion.

Clearly few have even notieced this, very few besides myself so far, but I did occasionally see commentators noting that while Trump/Hannity were constantly denying “collusion” with the Russians, Mueller was not investigsting that, ssomething that is not iillegal in any case, but instead “conspiracy” was what was being investigated, something that is a crime. While I am about to accuse Trump of stupidity, I think he or somebody figured it out that pushing this “no collusion” line would end up as it has as indeed Mueller was not investigating the not-illegal “collusion.” So far, they are getting away with this scam.

So how do these things differ? Conspiracy and cooedination both imply some amount of planning and direction, with for conspiracy some sort of communication and agreement on the plan with the other conspiring party, namely the Russians. What apparently the Mueller report finds is none of that: no central plan or direction or the making of such a plan with the Russians. This indeed looks like it is true, although some of what went on around the Trump Tower meeting gets pretty borderline, even as that seems to have been sort of a mutually botched meeting.

 

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My Education in Going to College

As I explained in a conversation, what was done most recently by some wonderfully-over-funded people in an effort to get their children into a Tier one school certainly did not have to happen in the manner it did. They could have just approached school authorities and with a “Mellon’s” (Back to School’s – Rodney Dangerfield) audacity and offered to pay full ride and make a sizeable donation to the school. Maybe I am wrong; but, I do not know of many schools who would turn down a half a $million donation or so and a student who is willing to pay full price at the same time. Schools are short of funding. I am pretty sure this is going on today with little being said about the donations. Perhaps, others here would disagree with me?

Unfortunately, I was never so well-funded to initiate a back door funding approach such as what we are reading about today. My field of endeavor being Purchasing, Logistics, Distribution, and other similar disciplines did not command the type of salary to allow me to even hint at $hundreds of thousands or even $tens of thousands. In my field, we did not have the respect and admiration the reported actors had in their fields and accumulate such money. I was also caught in the 10 year economic cycle and one year spent time gaffing up trees and cutting them down. As Rodney would say; “Where does one go to get some respect around here?” It kept my family in one place and it paid the bills.

The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby tells us what his mother said to him while a sophomore in high school; “If you want to go to college, you’d better get a scholarship.” I never had such a discussion with my parents other than my dad telling me not to do what he did. At 19 I was in the military, got out at 22, and married this pretty woman from NYC who in the beginning made more money as a Paralegal than I did with a college education. It paid the bills until such time as I caught up.

Suddenly I had responsibility for more than just myself. So I picked out a small Lasallian Catholic college, used my VA bennies and the state grant to pay for it, and finished up in three years. Never thought of Northwestern or University of Chicago as neither were in the cards and my parents would not have understood it much less pay for either. As a good Baptist I chose a Jesuit University over a Vincentian University for my Masters. Going to school at night then seemed to drag on forever. It was years later when I found out the high school and colleges I attended were pretty good schools. Each year, I donate a few hundred and get invited to various functions which I do not attend. I do not know anyone at these schools other than the Deans.

As advice to my own children, I suggested they go to where the money was. If they offered you grants and scholarships, they wanted you. If all they could conjure up was a subsidized Stafford loan at $3,000/year for a $30,000/year education, they were telling you something. Thank the school for their time and move on to the next one. In the end, it worked and we were also able to finagle a few more $thousand yearly at some pretty good small colleges for each. They do well for themselves and have paid their school loans.

As I sit here in my Levi jeans and ratty-looking Jesuit University sweat shirt writing this, I find myself agreeing with Jacoby and confirming what I already know; “No one needs to attend an elite university to get a decent education or to make a success of their lives, just as no one needs to wear a Dolce and Gabbana sweater to keep warm or drive a Ferrari Enzo to get from here to there.

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What’s New About Fake News?

What’s New About Fake News?

The apparently falling standards for what people are willing to believe in seems to be the topic of the day.  We have immense, well-capitalized media outlets like Fox News just making stuff up, crazy conspiracies on the internet, a refusal to accept scientific expertise on matters, like climate change, where it is as well established as it’s ever been.  What’s up with all this?

I was provoked into thinking about this by a dreadful book review in The Nation: David Bell on Sophia Rosenfeld’s Democracy and Truth.  I haven’t read Rosenfeld, and maybe she’s pretty good, but it’s clear Bell is confused about the very starting point for thinking about the problem.  He talks about “regimes of truth”, which he cribs from Foucault: there is no capital-T truth out there, just different views on it which possess more or less power/authority.  We happen to suffer from elites or at least some portion of them, writes Bell, who have particularly dismal standards regarding what should count as true.  The solution is to replace the bad authorities with good ones, more or less.

The error, which ought to be obvious, is that capital-T truth is irrelevant.  It’s the wrong reference point, and it doesn’t matter that no one really knows (for sure) what it is.  The real question is, what are the standards we hold ourselves to in learning about the world and minimizing error?  For instance, do we honestly engage with those who disagree with us?  Do we maintain a modicum of self-doubt and face up to the evidence that could show us we’re wrong about something?  Do we respect logical consistency?  These standards don’t guarantee we’ll arrive at the Truth, nor even that we’ll know it if we stumble on it by accident.  They do reduce the risk of error, and that’s about all we can ask.  By not centering the discussion on standards for argument and belief, Bell can’t even pose the relevant question.

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Brooklyn Heights, NY

Click on the picture to get a great, detailed view of these magnificent and architecturally significant structures. Claude Scales’s Photo of the day: there is a lot of Brooklyn Heights literary history in this photo.

The poet W.H. Auden lived in the top floor apartment of the brownstone row house at One Montague Terrace, nearest the corner of Montague Street and Montague Terrace, in the winter of 1940-41 when he wrote his “New Year Letter.” If you go to the right two doors, to 5 Montague Terrace, you find the house where Thomas Wolfe (not to be confused with the recently deceased Tom Wolfe) worked on his novel “Of Time and the River.” On the left of the photo, the building with the cylindrical tower and turreted top is where the playwright Arthur Miller and his first wife, Mary Slattery, lived during the early years of their marriage, and where he began work on his first Broadway play, “The Man Who Had All the Luck”. — in New York, New York.

Love the buildings and maybe because I worked on a few similar to them using rope or cable suspended scaffolds and ladders in downtown or near downtown Chicago. Harvard attorney Claude Scales is the photo-artist-author of this snapshot and commentary stolen from Facebook. I know him from when I would comment at Slate Magazine (along with JackD) when it was a cool place to be. Editor Moira Redmond (not to be confused with the English actress) described the Best of The Fray site, “the place I would tell the other editors to go to if you wanted to find out what Americans were actually thinking.”

Hope you enjoy . . .

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